TED Conversations

Janielle Guzinski

Graduate Student - Landscape Architecture,

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What will happen when the world speaks only a few languages?

Increasing levels of globalization are causing a few languages to spread at unprecedented rates. But many less common languages and their associated cultures are going extinct. Programs exist for the conservation of species and habitats at risk of extinction, but very little attention is given to language extinction. Some scientists are suggesting that there are more languages at risk of extinction than bird or mammal species

Does language extinction really matter? It is hard to imagine how the loss of a language halfway around the world would impact your life, and diversity in language makes it difficult to understand one another. But should that diversity be preserved?



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    Jun 6 2013: Just to play devils advocate but will the homogenization of language around the world lead to an increase in the understanding between people? If we all spoke the same language it would make it more possible to spread ideas to each other. Just a thought.
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      Jun 6 2013: Kind of going off what you said Nick, what are the harsh downfalls of language homogenization? I believe having so many different languages is a beautiful thing personally because it gives us so many different cultures in which we can gain endless knowledge and perspective. But really, what bad things would happen if we all spoke the same language?
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        Jun 7 2013: I don't know that there would be a "bad" thing to language homogenization. It may allow for greater acceptance of cultures and increased communication because maybe people would not look at others so differently and would feel more connected. I would hate to lose languages, because like you said Laurel, they provide us with knowledge about unique cultures. Cultural loss would be a big effect of language homogenization, but I'm not sure if there would be major negatives to language homogenization.
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        Jun 7 2013: I agree that culture loss would be a huge downfall of language homogenization. To me, it would make the world too uniform. It would be weird if every country we traveled to, we could read the signs, and speak the language, I think that is part of the adventure.

        Also, I think it would depend on what stage of homogenization we were at. What ever language we all were merging to, at some point native speakers would be at a social and economic advantage than people trying to learn it or not as fluent, this could lead to underrepresentation of certain groups at world events.

        This article kind of touches on that, and discusses two paradigms: promoting English across the board or promoting multilingualism.

        English only world wide or Language Ecology

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